Former Princeton native shares experiences at Ground Zero following attacks on 9/11

Dave Luft served as Red Zone coordinator three months following attacks

Princeton marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with a remembrance ceremony that drew a full crowd to Rotary Park Saturday morning.

The event’s guest speaker was Princeton native Dave Luft, now of Kansas City. Luft lived in Princeton from 1981 to 1988 while he was the engineering manager at the plant known today as Monterey Mushroom. After leaving the plant, he joined the Salvation Army where he served throughout the Midwest and in disaster areas.

Three months following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Luft was working as a Salvation Army officer in Springfield. He was called in to assist with the cleanup efforts at Ground Zero and appointed to the role of Red Zone coordinator — an overwhelming task for someone who had never even set foot in Manhattan before his assignment.

Luft described his first moments at Ground Zero, a 16-acre area. He recounted details about the daily tasks assigned to him and his crew. He told about the gripping encounters with families of lost loved ones and what the reaction was like at Ground Zero when cleanup crews came upon missing bodies found in the rumble. Luft shared the emotional stories about the grieving people he met and came in contact with during his duty in New York City.

The experience in New York was a life-changing event for all who served during those months following the attacks, but perhaps one of the most rewarding for all the volunteers sent to help pick up the pieces at Ground Zero.

Pastor Ryan Sutton of the First United Methodist Church was invited to give the Saturday ceremony’s invocation. During his prayer he took people back to the days following the attacks.

“We sought out people to talk to and process what had happened. We prayed in small groups and as individuals. We asked what we could do then and in the future to try and never have this happen again. We worked for justice and achieved a great measure of it, despite never being able to return exactly to how things were and bring back what and who had been lost.”

Mayor Joel Quiram welcomed spectators on the behalf of the city of Princeton and also gave remarks about the tragic events.

“We lost something that day. We lost our innocence. We lost our way of life as we had grown to know it. When the grieving subsided, we grew angry and in someways it never subsided.

“That anger reminds us of who we are as people, who we are as a nation, but most importantly, it reminds us of our freedom and how precious it is to all of us.

Twenty years have passed since that tragic day and we haven’t forgotten, nor will we ever.”

The Covered Bridge Barbershop Harmony Chorus performed three pieces during the event, including “America the Beautiful,” “Taps” and “God Bless America.”

Saturday’s ceremony concluded with the retiring of colors and a 21-gun salute by Princeton Veterans Group.

Goldie Rapp

Goldie Rapp

Goldie Rapp is the Associate Editor of the Bureau County Republican and Putnam County Record. She has worked for Shaw Media since 2013.